A new high for campus startups
Every classroom has those extra-milers, the people who can only be satiated with the right fodder for their imagination than big scores, medals and certificates; this is for you geeks. Who knows, perhaps a passport to Silicon Valley hides in your idea. With Startup Village, the destination for entrepreneurial dreams, shedding its physical self and going in for a digital makeover to incubate student start-ups, millions of students are getting a fillip nationwide.
Touted to be a world first, the online student incubator SV.CO will be able to reach out to five million engineering students in 3,500 engineering colleges in India. The six-month online programme entails students to pick an idea from a pool of 50 curated business ideas, build a prototype and launch to early customers. Sanjay Vijayakumar, chairman of Startup Village, defines SV.CO, equating it to the mode of operation of Flipkart.
For gaining access to every pin code in the country, SV.CO will have to go fully digital. They will come to the aid of those talents in remote villages and towns where accessibility to quality incubators is still a distant dream. A lucky few can walk straight into Silicon Valley. “SV.CO is a very competitive programme for college students.”
“In our last batch, we received a thousand applications of which eight were selected. Our only criterion is quality and we can accept up to 100 teams in this intake. The plan is to take all startups — one founder from each team — in the third batch to Silicon Valley to launch their products,” says Sanjay. The PPP model enjoys the patronage of the Union Department of Science and Technology. The 12-month beta run ahead of the official online launch in July had incubated 20 college student teams. A handpicked few share their experience.
Varghese George and friends Renjith, Sidharth and Rakhul were final year students of Sri Chitra Thirunal College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram while developing Zpay, a unified system for merchants to accept any form of paperless money. “I had previously been part of a startup right out of school that ended up commercially unviable. Startup Village came in to the picture then. Even though the rest of my team were new to it, all were interested in entrepreneurship. So we formed a team and applied to SV.CO. One major advantage of being with SV.CO was that we actually got a chance to present our ideas to real industry leaders,” Varghese sums up.
The comforts of online space can’t match up with anything for a college-goer, shows team Walat of Arya M., Akshay Nath and Irshad P.I. — developers of a cardless ATM transaction model. “I found it comfortable to learn online because the timing was flexible. This helped me manage both the start-up and academics. Being able to learn from experts in the industry at a very young age and being able to present ideas before them is not something we get to do in college,” gushes Arya.
Arun P. is one lucky guy who won the jackpot to Silicon Valley, and is the co-founder of Sieve Inc there. “That Sieve 1.0 was built in 14 days is a proof of how effective SV.CO is. I started working on building my own start-up when I was in the second year of college. I built a team and we worked on service projects initially. During my final year in college, I joined SV.CO. Our focus was on delivery market where we deliver groceries to homes in autorickshaws. Later, we all preferred placements,” says Arun.
Ajmal Azeez is all excited on the digital incubation experience. “In August 2015, together with my friends Aswin, Kishan and Balram, we got into SV.CO’s first batch. We were working on an idea called Spenwise, a financial tool for younger generation which helps them spend more responsibly. They gave us targets as we progressed and helped us complete it and give feedback once done. I got a chance to visit Silicon Valley and my co-founder Balram got selected for Google Summer of Code 2016. We were among the 10 teams from Kerala which went on a Kerala Startup Mission- FICCI delegation trip to San Francisco,” he says.